By: Melissa Farrell
How many times have you gone out for your long run, only to look down at your watch and realize you’re running a PR pace? Yeah, I think we’ve all made that mistake. As runners, we sometimes get into a mentality that we need to ALWAYS be fast. In trying to always BE fast, you aren’t allowing yourself to GET fast.
Long runs are one of the cornerstones of any running program, whether you’re training for a half marathon or a 50 miler. One day of your run week is usually dedicated to a long run. I think it might be helpful to understand the purpose of this run when you are trying to get those legs to slow down. We all want to be fast-ER, but that 15 or 18 miler is not the time.
Let’s start with the fact that it is your LONG run. It’s simple purpose is to get your body used to running long. You can have all the speed in the world, but if your legs can’t carry you the full distance, what good is it? This is a good time to think about your running form, your stride, your breathing, your nutrition, your weekly schedule, or why you decided to sign up for that 50 miler. I can tell you that personally, this is one of my favorite runs in my program. Maybe it’s because I can mentally distract myself or as some people say, maybe cause I’m just nuts! I will say, to embark on a 50 mile run, there needs to be some level of crazy going on in here!
The longer runs will also help in strengthening your heart. By having to work harder and longer to send oxygen to your legs, core, and upper body, the heart will over time become stronger and more efficient in completing this task. Test it out. Wear a heart rate monitor on one of your earlier long runs. As you approach race day, try it again and see what the difference is. You should notice that you have an easier time maintaining a moderate heart rate on stints that before may have caused it to increase. Like your overall training, give it time and be patient and you will reap the benefits. No good thing happens overnight, it takes time and perseverance just like your long run.
I’m sure most of you will love this fact, that the longer runs can help train your body to be better at utilizing fat as a fuel source. I don’t care who you are, there is NO WAY you can eat enough the day before a 20 mile run to sustain yourself through its entirety. There needs to be a level of efficiency in the way you use the energy you DO have stored, as well as the energy you are able to put in during your run. I can’t remember the last time I saw a runner out for an 18 miler chowing down on a loaf of bread. it ain’t happening folks. Be prepared by training your body for the conditions you will encounter on race day.
Long runs, just like tempo runs, track workouts, recovery runs, have their place in your training. Try to use these runs for what they are meant for. Talking with a few runner friends of mine, who also like longer distances, we decided that there needs to be an indicator light on your forehead that tells other runners what mile you are on. This would help avoid that 1 mile power runner flying past you, only to find himself walking by mile 10. Don’t feel like you need to race me during your tempo run, I’m on mile 17. And remember, it’s not all about how fast you go, as long as you finish. I’ll see you at the finish line!
Co-Founder & Running Coach, Las Vegas Runners
Ultra runner & World Championship Duathlete